By JIM CONNOLLY – For SLAM! Wrestling
BARRIE, ON — Heading into this summer, I was excited. The traditional Apocalypse Wrestling marathon at Toronto’s “Ex” and the highly anticipated Ring Wars promotion in Wasaga Beach would satisfy my hunger for live wrestling this summer. What could go wrong? I soon found out.
Insurance companies suddenly made it difficult to obtain coverage for smaller wrestling promotions. Both companies that were to provide local wrestling suspended their upcoming shows. This thwarted my neat and tidy plan for sports entertainment this summer. Neo-Spirit was available in Niagara Falls but two and a half hours seemed too far to travel for one card and the WWE, at the present, doesn’t really appeal to me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my daily SLAM! Wrestling Internet fix that was to offer the solution to my problem — Fan Slam in New Jersey.
I could even disguise this as a family vacation! My son’s favourite, “old-school” wrestler was Paul Orndorff, so he would vote for the plan. My daughter would be away, so she wasn’t a problem. Surprisingly my wife was quite agreeable, and thus the adventure began.
Days before we left, a good friend informed me that there was wrestling in Buffalo as part of a Buffalo Bisons’ baseball game. The card featured many of the stars of NWA-TNA. This would fit in perfectly during my little holiday, as it featured my son’s modern day idol, Raven and our favourite promotion. This little American excursion just got better.
Encountering the usual hassles ordering tickets on-line and arranging hotel reservations, we were off. Like all family vacations, we bickered over directions and finally arrived in Totawa, New Jersey tired and crabby. I wasn’t sure if this would be my answer to the Ontario wrestling drought or a holiday disaster.
Soon I had my answer. It was one of the most memorable four days in my life. Not only did my son and I meet legends like Ricky Steamboat, Bobby Heenan and J.J. Dillon, but we bonded like never before in our sixteen years together. Watching him beam as these stars signed autographs and took pictures with him was priceless.
We both were in awe as over a thousand fans squeezed through a small hotel banquet room interacting with the many vendors, including Ox Baker and veteran ring announcer, Gary Michael Cappetta. With our arms, full of posters, tapes and action figures, we managed to chat with famous wrestling media guru, Bill Apter and jubilant Fan Slam promoter, Tommy Fierro.
The press conference was incredible. Rookie Scott Chong, veteran indy star Devon Storm and Texas star Kevin Von Erich along with all of the other personalities mentioned earlier, tackled topics such as brand extension, Vince McMahon and Ric Flair. My son and I felt special as only about one hundred and fifty fans listened in.
Another highlight would have to be the fans. We exchanged e-mail addresses with new friends from New York and Pennsylvania. To our surprise we made another friend with a fan from Georgetown, Ontario. As the wrestling community is relatively small, we actually had mutual acquaintances.
The Ballpark Brawl in Buffalo was another success. Our first live card this summer included TNA stars such as Tracy Brooks, A.J. Styles and Jeff Jarrett. Surprise guests included Diamond Dallas Page (donating his time for a local charity) and Sabu. Our ticket package included a “meet and greet” that included autographs of all of the performers.
This was the perfect ending to our adventure. It couldn’t have been better. Even though we skipped two different Indy shows in New Jersey, we felt like we made all of the right decisions.
The Ontario wrestling scene is slowly recovering from its insurance woes. Ring Wars has recently started up again in Orangeville. Although this is encouraging news, I’m glad we took the opportunity to take our wrestling road trip.
Oh, my wife, you ask? That’s another story …
Jim Connolly is a long-time fan from Barrie, Ontario and is a teacher when he’s not watching wrestling.